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The image on our Web site's navigation bar is adapted from the bronze medallion on the floor of the Great Hall of the National Academy of Sciences building. The medallion's design is based on a map of the solar system appearing in the Harmonia Macrocosmica ("macrocosmic harmony") of Andreas Cellarius, published in Amsterdam in 1661. The map shows the solar system as hypothesized by Copernicus (1473-1543), and "as known to Galileo."

Following the Copernican hypothesis, the image depicts a heliocentric (sun-centered) solar system. Orbiting the sun are (moving outward from the center) the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and their moons. Because the planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto were still undiscovered at the time Galileo (1564-1642) was active, they are not depicted on the medallion. Our modern understanding of the structure of the solar system is based on this Copernican model.

The medallion, which was designed by Lee Lawrie in 1924 for the then-new Academy building, functions as a wellcover for the spectroscope that sits just below the Great Hall's Foucault Pendulum. The pendulum and spectroscope were among the scientific exhibits maintained by the Academy during the early years of its residence in the building.

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Copyright 1998 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.